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How Evangelicals Reshaped Elections

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tags: religion, politics, evangelicals, Trump



When he campaigned for president in 1976, Jimmy Carter often invoked the late theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and his admonition that “the sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world.” That sort of faith-inflected speech from a major national politician was new to most voters. So was the candidate himself, a former Georgia governor who taught Sunday school and described himself as born again, an obscure term for many millions of Americans.

Mr. Carter managed, narrowly, to win that first post-Watergate national election. As president, he put liberal aspects of his Baptist tradition front and center, whether appealing for racial equality, lamenting economic disparity or making human rights concerns integral to American foreign policy. What he did not win were the hearts and minds of his white co-religionists.

A new movement of white evangelicalism awakened during his presidency, one that was socially conservative and hostile to his agenda and to him personally. In 1980, Mr. Carter lost the White House to the Republican Ronald Reagan, who had support from two-thirds of white evangelical voters. They liked Mr. Reagan’s staunch anti-Communism and his calls for limited government, so much so that they closed their eyes to aspects of his character — twice-married, alienated from his children, almost never attended church — that flew counter to much of what they considered elements of an upright life.

Read entire article at NYT

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